Lemon Chess Pie

bright + custardy

In the never-ended kitchen screw ups that comprise my life, I made two pies yesterday. Why? Partially because I am insane, because on top of making pies, I had a shitload of actual work-work to do (work work is work that needs to get done for my full-time, real-life job). Another reason was because I needed to make a pie today for this #pieitforward group project that I am working on with tons of awesome, way more talented bloggers. They would all surely have gorgeous pies ready to post this morning. I, on the other hand, was stuck with a pie that was too damn big to fit into the Pie Box it was supposed to fit in. After staring at my giant, delicious-looking pie for about 10 minutes, looking at it, then at Kramer, then back at it, then back at Kramer, I decided that my worst fears had been realized: time to make more pie crust and figure out what ingredients I had handy in order to make pie numero dos. I made a lemon chess pie earlier this year, and it was met with rave reviews, so I figured, let’s do this thing again. It’s almost like a lemon custard pie, or somewhere between a pudding and a custard. It’s creamy, slightly tart, and absolutely perfect. Thankfully, I hadn’t actually shot this pie for my blog yet, so it was almost as if it was meant to be. Luckily, this pie fit perfectly. Thank god. I don’t know if I would have had the energy to make a third pie. I’m planning to bring one to my local bodega, but does anyone else want an extra pie?

lemon chess pieChocolate chunk cookies, chocolate espresso cake, pizza, and bread. Lots of bread.

So, now, ’tis the season and all that. Kramer and I have been working non-stop for a few weeks now, as I’m sure many of you have. It’s been really stressful, to say the least. I know most nights we should try to stay in, relax, go to bed early, but it’s all too tempting to blow off steam after a long day at work, so we often go out to meet friends for a drink or go see a late movie or something, go to bed late, wake up tired, rinse, and repeat. I think now that it’s finally the week of Christmas and people are taking vacations, we’ll be able to clean house a bit, put a bow on whatever we’ve been working on, and try to chill. My brother is coming up from Baltimore on Thursday, so we’ll get to see him, go check out Hateful Eight and whatever other movies we’re feeling, eat some dim sum, and hopefully have a glass of eggnog or warm cider (or three). Maybe I’ll freeze some of these pies for when we come home after a few drinks and need a midnight snack. Good idea, Sydney. You’re a genius.

lemon chess pielemon chess pieWhat happens when your first pie is a failure? Make a second pie at 9 pm. Like a normal person.

lemon chess pieThankfully, pie number two was a success.

lemon chess pieI love how lemony this pie is and how creamy and custard the filling is. A+ pie.

lemon chess pielemon chess pie

Lemon Chess Pie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10 slices
A bright, custardy chess pie with a hint of lemon and a flaky, buttery crust.
For the Crust:
  • 3 ¾ cups AP flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup cold shortening or lard
  • ⅔ cup ice water
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar or vodka
  • 1 egg, beaten (for an egg wash, if desired)
For the Filling:
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • powdered sugar, for decorating (optional)
  1. First, make your pie crust. Please note that you should always chill your pie crust for at least 3 hours before baking. You have been warned.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, sugar, and salt. Cube your butter quickly, so it stays as cold as possible, and add it to your flour. Cube your shortening as best as you can (mine usually just ends up as small dollops all over my flour) and add it to your flour. Use your hands to combine the flour with the butter and sugar, pressing the butter into the flour with your thumbs. The result should look like pea-sized crumbs, but with a few nice chunks of visible butter still in the dough (this creates nice, flaky layers).
  3. Combine your ice water and vinegar, and slowly drizzle it over your flour mixture, starting with about half. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together, then add in a few more tablespoons at a time, mixing as you go, but being careful not to overwork the dough. It should be a little shaggy and crumbly when you’re done, but still wet enough to form into a ball. Use a little extra water, if needed.
  4. Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap, forming the dough into large disks. This recipe makes enough for two pies, or one two-crust pie. If you’re not making a second pie, then go ahead and freeze your extra disk for up to 6 months. You’re welcome.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. When you're ready to make your pie, roll out one disk of dough onto a generously floured surface. Place this crust in your pie dish, crimp the edges as you see fit, and place it in the freezer while you make the filling.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk together your eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and vinegar. Once whisked well, add in your butter gradually, mixing as you go, just in case your butter is still hot (you don't want to accidentally scramble your eggs). Whisk until smooth and fully combined. Pour the lemon mixture into your chilled pie crust, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and mostly set, but still a little jiggly. Let the pie cool completely before slicing and serving. This pie will keep well, lightly covered and at room temperature, for up to 3 days.


8 Responses

  1. gary says:

    I thought they #pieitforward thing was to give the pies away to someone else (like fire fighters) who are making a kind of sacrifice? Am I confused?

  2. I totally feel you. These last few days have been crazy and I told myself I’d go to bed early tonight. Here I am at 11pm, drinking a stout, and blogging/commenting on blogs. It’s a sick cycle!

  3. Janice says:

    Beautiful post, and what a pie! Just wondering, is the juice of half a lemon sufficient to make it truly lemony? Thanks in advance, can’t wait to bake this.

  4. Jeff says:

    Oh my goodness.. your pie looks delicious. I love custardy texture like that. One day I will try to make this (never made a pie in my life). Thank you Sydney – hope you’re enjoying your chill time!

  5. Tara says:

    Hi, Sydney!! I had to laugh over your caption “What happens when your first pie is a failure?…” Because I’ve also been that “normal person” baking replacement pies at ridiculous hours!!! Glad to know I’m not alone in my normalcy!! This pie looks beautiful & great!! I can’t wait to make it!! Cheers!

  6. Kathy says:

    Sydney, you’re killin’ me, here. This slice of pie is truly golden perfection on a plate. Please quit your work-work and open a pie bodega….I’ll come out to deliver to the awesome NYC fire-stations :). Greetings from Wisconsin, mutual friend Elaine (Milwaukee) sent me here, FYI Happy New Year to you & yours!

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